Wednesday, July 29, 2015

RWA Red Carpet

The RWA National Conference in New York City is behind us now, and I think I speak for all the Super authors when I say that a blast was had by all. Rather than tell you how amazing everything and everyone was, I'm going to let these pictures speak for themselves.

We begin with a blackmail shot - er, I mean, a candid photo - of the Superromance editors rehearsing a dance number for the Harlequin party.
Then it was off to the Waldorf Astoria ...
... for the Harlequin Black and White Ball!

Nan Dixon was there

So were Jules Bennett (Desire and Special Edition author), Joanne Rock (Superromance), Danica Favorite (Love Inspired Historical) and Dana Nussio (Superromance)

Nan Dixon, Pamela Hearon, and Anna Sugden
Jeannie Watt, in a dress she made - yes - herself. The pattern was from 1960. It stood up well, methinks.
A pair of the famous Harlequin party dancing socks

Pamela Hearon, Cathryn Parry, and Angel Smits

The Starlight room before the dancing began

Another shot of the Starlight room. Claire McEwen is in the black top and white tutu.

Nan toasts us as we depart the party and head to the Rita & Golden Heart awards ceremony
Claire McEwen, Pamela Hearon, Angel Smits and Janet Lee Nye with their Super fans, ready to cheer for our Rita finalists.

Yes, Jeannie Watt made this dress as well, this time from a 1952 pattern. Isn't she amazing?
Here's a better shot of those Super fans (made by Janet Nye, that talented woman), being put to good use by Pamela Hearon and Angel Smits.

Janet Lee Nye with Rita award winning Harlequin author Tiffany Reisz

My favorite picture of the entire conference - the Superromance authors who made it to the Meet and Greet session. Smart, funny, talented, and dedicated, these women rock the publishing world.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Acts of kindness

Mary Sullivan

I am always amazed by the acts of kindness I see that pop up out of nowhere.

Recently, I was walking down the street with my sister when we noticed something strange. A man stood beside his parked car with his hood up and booster cables hooked up to his battery. My first natural thought was that he was waiting for a friend or a roadside assistance service to come give him a boost.

As cars passed by and he waggled the cables at the drivers I realized he was hoping for a good Samaritan to stop and help. It didn't take long. While I watched, an SUV stopped then pulled forward onto a side street, reversed and turned around until his and the stranger's car were nose to nose. It was a busy corner and the turn tricky, but he pulled it off to help out a stranger. I was impressed!

So many people are in a rush these days to get where they need to go, so it was wonderful to see a man take a few minutes out of his day to help someone he didn't know.

This happened in my hometown of Toronto. I've heard it said many times that this is a cold city and yet, I see these kinds of things happening regularly.

A short while ago, an elderly woman fell down on a busy street near where I live and you should have seen how many people stopped to help her and then stayed with her to wait for the ambulance.

A taxi driver made an impression while the PanAm games were on in the city. A young athlete left her wallet in his car after paying her fare. He was a distance away before he realized what she had done and, instead of dropping it off at a police station, drove all the way back to the athlete's village to try to find her. He did and the story had a happy ending.

Have you witnessed any acts of kindness that really stood out for you?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Irreplaceable, Inimitable and Classic: How Do Characters and Actors Become Memorable?

As part of my research for my next book, I watched the great classic The Maltese Falcon for the first time in my life. The classic film noire starring Humphrey Bogart, based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett, is about hardboiled detective Sam Spade (Bogart) who get tangled up in a web of lies and secrets as he searches for the person who killed his partner and what the murder has to do with a legendary jewelled artifact.

The stuff dreams are made of...
As I watched, I started thinking about the proliferation of movie remakes and how Bogart is one of those rare actors who cannot be replaced or emulated. I spent an unworthy amount of brain space recasting The Maltese Falcon with contemporaries, but Bogart had no equal. Writes Tom Shone in Slate:Bogart is one of the few Hollywood actors recognizable entirely in silhouette—the true mark of an icon.” It’s true: few actors have achieved his status—being on the A-list doesn’t even scratch the surface of what Bogart embodies. Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks, and Leonardo DiCaprio are all accomplished A-list actors who’ve played a wide range of roles over several decades, but I think you’d agree they don’t quite measure up.

Think of it this way: If I tried to suggest a remake of Casablanca with someone like George Clooney in the roll of Rick, I’d probably be run out of town. No offense to Mr. Clooney.

So what makes a character or an actor irreplaceable? The answer to the question is as elusive as that “star quality” directors, producers and agents look for in talent—that particular je ne sais quoi that even scientists have tried to measure and qualify. One might argue Bogart has the advantage of time and timing on his side—after all, he was making movies like Sabrina and The Big Sleep back in the golden age of the silver screen, during one of the world’s most transformative eras in world history. He and his contemporaries have had a lifetime or more to marinate in popular culture history, waxing from classic to cliché and mellowing to nostalgic.

This all got me thinking about the heroes we read about in romance. With so many powerful CEOs, tycoons, sheikhs, princes, athletes, working heroes and single dads inhabiting the world of romance novels, how do writers make their characters memorable? How is Rhett Butler more memorable than any other rogue in romance fiction? Did Clark Gable’s performance in the film solidify his character? Or is it simply that Gone with the Wind is a seminal a piece of work in the romance genre and Rhett Butler is the ultimate bad boy?

Another example of a memorable hero is Pride and Prejudice’s Mr. Darcy. He’s been portrayed by numerous actors on stage and screen over the years, yet Colin Firth’s portrayal in the BBC version is one of the most enduring. He was so iconic in this role that Firth even played a version of Mr. Darcy in the 1995 film adaptation of Bridget Jones’ Diary, a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, made six years after the BBC version of the Jane Austen tale. Talk about typecasting!

Is it something about a particular actor in a particular role that crystalizes a literary figure or fictional character in the collective consciousness? Do movie adaptations ruin or strengthen the inimitability of particular actors or characters?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers to any of these questions. Bona fide Bogart scholars have written tomes about the enduring figure that is Humphrey Bogart. I like to think part of the appeal of such characters and actors is their mystique—that we can’t qualify or quantify their appeal. Sometimes thinking about it too hard takes some of the shine off them.

The one thing I do know for certain: they should never, ever remake Casablanca.

Here’s looking at you, Bogie.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Little About Me...Rachel Brimble

As I had a complete brain freeze of what to blog about today, I thought I'd complete a self-interview so you lovely visitors can learn a little more about goes!

1. Tell us 4 things most readers wouldn't know about you.

- I love to knit
- I have a phobia of bridges
- I regularly eat four jelly donuts from our local bakery in one sitting ;)
- I was rescued by helicopter from a hotel roof during the 2010 French floods

2.What is your favorite genre to read? and what is your favorite genre to write?

My favorite genre to read and write is romantic suspense – although a close second is historical from either the Tudor or Victorian eras.

3. What is the most challenging aspect of writing romantic suspense?

The plotting! I LOVE writing romantic suspense but getting the suspense thread and relationship thread right is tricky. I start out with a sketchy plan but it always ends up completely different thaN I thought at the beginning. ‘Upping the stakes’ is the most important element and I constantly worry about it.

4. If you could be a character in any of your novels, which one would you be?

I love Cat in Finding Justice – she’s a feisty, hardworking cop who has all sorts of personal problems going on. Yet she manages to balance them and keep her heart in the right place. I really enjoyed creating her and telling her story. She’s the protagonist of book one in my ongoing series with Harlequin, but also features in books two and three.

 5. What is your favorite book?

For a classic – Gone With The Wind

For modern – The Chesapeake series by Nora Roberts or The Virgin River series by Robyn Carr

The next book in my Templeton Cove Stories series is out in September and available for pre-order. Here's the blurb & links:

She's back to right her wrongs 

When Tanya Todd returns to Templeton Cove, she knows better than to expect a warm welcome. She burned a few bridges on her way out of town, and making amends won't be easy. First on her list is the man whose heart she carelessly shattered, Liam Browne. 

Seeing the successful criminal lawyer after all these years, Tanya is interested in more than just Liam's forgiveness. As they work together to bring the man who hurt her sister to justice, the attraction between them sizzles. Suddenly Tanya's second chance could include a future with Liam…if she can prove she's changed.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The RWA Literacy for Life Superromance Lineup!

If you'll be in the New York City area Wednesday, July 22, pop into the Marriott Marquis (1535 Broadway) and meet your favorite authors at the Lieracy for Life Literacy Autographing. You can find all the details here. But we thought we'd make things a little easier and let you know which Super authors will be in attendance, and what they'll be signing!

Jeannie Watt

Making an offer on love 
Troublemaker-turned-architect Gabe Matthews has an agenda—and a serious relationship is nowhere on it. To repay his mentor, he trades the big city for the rugged country so he can persuade the sexy cowgirl next door, Danica Brody, to sell the Lightning Creek Ranch.

Soon Gabe is pulling out all the stops to get close to Dani. But earning her trust complicates everything. He knows the last thing she needs is another run-in with deception, and the attraction he doesn't see coming changes his every plan.
Anna Sugden

He's the perfect catch…for now! 
When it comes to romance, Tracy Hayden is not looking for a rematch. She's had epic passion—and problems!—with professional hockey player Ike Jelinek. Brilliant on skates and magic in bed, his too-traditional-for-her views were like a bucket of ice water on their affair.
Then an injury takes Ike out of the game, and everything changes. Suddenly he needs her services-providing business—even though he once claimed it was their biggest problem. Tracy's determined to be professional, despite the sizzling attraction between them that won't go away. Maybe they need a second fling to fix that!

A Family Come True Kris Fletcher
It started with a kiss… 

Ian North is the one person Darcy Maguire can always count on. So when her daughter's biological father shows up unannounced, she knows Ian will do whatever it takes to help. A kiss, however, is the last thing she expects.

Suddenly their little white lie is out of control. They're spending Father's Day with Ian's family and lying about being a couple. Only pretending isn't enough for Darcy anymore. Ian is the best father her daughter could have, and she's ready to make it official. But how can she know for certain where the lie ends and reality begins?

Southern Comforts (Fitzgerald House)
Nan Dixon

Rule #2—Never get involved with a guest 

Abigail Fitzgerald has always followed her mama's rules when it comes to running their family's B and B. But her mama never had to resist a man like Grayson Smythe. A long-term guest, Gray spends his evenings having dinner with Abby in her kitchen—and it's not long before their attraction begins to sizzle. 
Although Gray's kisses are a delicious distraction, Abby's priorities are the B and B and the dream of opening her own restaurant. And Gray definitely has the means to help her. But when money seems to be all he can offer, Abby suspects she might get burned.
My Way Back To You Pamela Hearon
Married too young, divorced too soon? 

Jeff Wells hasn't seen his ex-wife, Maggie Russell, in years. Yet as they reunite to settle their son into his college dorm, Jeff discovers the attraction between them is still present—and very strong. Yet so are the reasons they shouldn't be together…

Still, what's the harm in giving in to their desire for a few days? No expectations, no strings. But the affair is so passionate, soon Jeff wants more. He wants what they used to have, only better. First he needs to convince Maggie this is their second chance at love and not simply a repeat of the past.

Convincing The Rancher Claire McEwen
About that night… 
Benson, California, represents all that Tess Cole doesn't want. So she intends to keep her business trip there brief. Too bad her idea to quickly change the mayor's mind about some planning issues dissolves the moment she recognizes him! That one night with Slaid Jacobs remains a personal favorite for Tess—and for him, too, it seems. 
Even though he's gorgeous and hot, it's clear to Tess that the single dad wants a commitment—something she avoids. It's also clear Slaid is bent on convincing her they can build a future out of their passionate past. And that's a very tempting offer…
Nights Under The Tennessee Stars (Heartache, Tenessee)
Joanne Rock

Heartache—the best place to heal 

Erin Finley heads home to Heartache, Tennesee, after the perfect guy turns out to be anything but. She throws herself into running a vintage store with her sister and surrounding herself with the comforts of her small town. Then one rainy night, TV producer Remy Weldon shows up and almost sweeps her off her feet!

Remy sees more in Erin than she sees in herself. Quirky, beautiful and capable, he needs her for his antiques show—and for himself. Because Erin is the first star Remy's found in the very dark night that has become his life. And she might just be able to lead him into the dawn… 

Catching Her Rival Lisa Dyson
Let the games begin… 
Allie Miller's life is a little crazy at the moment. She just found out she has a twin sister, she's been working day and night to get her PR business off the ground, and now her heart's decided to fall for her biggest professional rival, Jack Fletcher.
But Allie is used to life's challenges and intends to face this one—this very handsome, very charming one—head-on. However, when Jack suggests they be just friends, Allie is thrown for a loop. Lusting after the competition is one thing, but being his pal is nearly impossible…especially when she realizes she wants much more.

Navy Joy 
Geri Krotow

Chief Petty Officer Ian Cairne arrives stateside for Christmas with a four-legged friend: his late buddy's military service dog. Fortunately, the beautiful town vet Wendi Cooper is willing to take this odd couple into her home—and her heart.

Mother By Fate (Where Secrets Are Safe) Tara Taylor Quinn
To trust a stranger… 
Sara Havens helps others. Mothers. Children. Those who seek to escape from violence. Her work with The Lemonade Stand—a unique women's shelter—also lets her forget the loss of the child who should have been hers. And when a handsome stranger strikes up a poolside conversation, it's no coincidence.

Bounty hunter Michael Edison is tracking a former resident of the shelter. Fearing for the missing woman's safety, Sara joins the pursuit. But nothing is what it appears to be—including Michael. As they grow closer, Sara risks losing her carefully constructed control…


The Sheriff of Shelter Valley
Tara Taylor Quinn 

Six months ago, Beth woke up with no memory of her past, a bruised face and a little boy who called her "Mama." Until her memory returns, the most dangerous thing she can do is to fall for the sheriff—the one man who can uncover the truth and destroy the person she's become.

Scotland For Christmas
Cathryn Parry

These secrets won't stay hidden 

Jacob Ross needs Isabel Sage. She's a beautiful, brilliant heiress to Scotland's wealthiest family fortune—but Jacob isn't interested in her looks or money. Isabel holds the key to questions about his past. And when he gets a weekend assignment as her bodyguard, Jacob finally has a shot at getting the truth.
But Jacob never expected Isabel to be anything other than a spoiled rich girl. Never expected to feel such a connection. And when Isabel realizes why he's really there, she'll be furious at being used. Jacob will have to convince her that she's become so much more than an assignment…


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Question Of The Month: Your Favorite Vacation Spot

Time for a new Question of the Month, readers! We are in the height of summer vacations here in North America - where is your favorite vacation spot and what makes it specials for you?

Pamela Hearon:  My favorite vacation spot is the south of France.  There's a gorgeous little fishing village called Villefranche-sur- mer where my husband and I have vacationed several times.  It's only six miles to Nice, so there's a city close to fly into.  And it's only 20 miles to the Italian border--an easy train ride, and you're in a completely different culture  The food is fabulous, the people are friendly, and the French Riviera is outside your window.  Oh man.  Now, I'm wanting to go back.

Liz Talley: My favorite vacation spot is a fabulous, exciting city with plenty of good restaurants, museums and interesting places to tour. I want to sleep late, take long hot showers and sip cocktails at a bar. Oh, and  housekeeping will make my bed and a  good chef will cook my dinner. That’s VACATION for mommy!

Kristina Knight: Anywhere warm! We cruise a lot, so the Caribbean is always a favorite spot. Roatan (an island in Honduras) is a particular favorite, but truly if there is a beach and a nice beachside spot to get drinks with RadioMan at night, fun water activities we can do with bebe during the day and we are a happy crew!

Tara Taylor Quinn: My favorite vacation spot is Italy.  I love the north – Milan.  And the south – Capri.  I was on a journey to find my own inner strength a few years ago and I flew into Rome with a girlfriend, rented a car, and I drove all over Italy.  While looking for a ferry I ended up in a wrong part of Naples.  I quickly left, but rounded a corner on a very slim mountain road and a motorcycle pulled out in front of me.  I slammed on the brakes.  And a second guy came out of a crevice in the mountain and jumped in the back of the car.  And before he had the door closed I floored the gas pedal.  There was no thought to this.  No direction.  Just reaction.  The motorcycle had already started on its way so he wasn’t hit.  The guy in the back fell out.  And that was the moment I met my inner self – and started to love her.  In a pinch, she had backbone.  Strength.  She was there for me.  I just hadn’t ever let her free.  That night, nestled in a quaint and very safe hotel on a balcony over the Mediterranean Sea I fell apart a bit.  We had a personal waiter assigned to us for our two night stay and he brought a bottle of the best wine I’ve ever had.  On the house.

Jeannie Watt: I live off the grid and very rural, therefore I like to vacation in an urban setting--San Francisco is my go-to vacation spot. Love that city!

Nan Dixon: My favorite vacation spot is our cabin in mid-Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes.  As soon as I turn off the highway, the tension of life spools off me.  The cabin has been in the family all my life and now my sisters and I own it.  And since I have a summer birthday -- it is always spent at the lake.

Joanne Rock: I like to visit new-to-me places and discover new sights. Ideally, a summer trip includes a visit to a baseball stadium we haven't seen before, a few quirky restaurants, and walkable attractions that teach me some city history. I also like a day of shopping in new stores and boutiques, followed by downtime where I do absolutely nothing other than sip exotic beers poolside or beach side. I like to go home with  a sense I got to experience the unique character of a new place.

Janet Lee Nye: My favorite would have to be Utah. I don't know if it is because the landscape there is so different from the South, but I have a list of places to see there that would take me a year to finish!
I'm definitely a hiking (and recently horseback riding) type of girl on vacation, but no camping!!! I need a hot shower and a soft bed to return to!

Kris Fletcher: Seriously? We travel a lot, but the place where I feel most relaxed and rejuvenated is on my own comfy glider on my own back deck. Alone. (That's the key word, of course. A-L-O-N-E.)

Vicki Essex: As I write this, I am currently AT my favorite vacation spot, enjoying a relaxing babymoon before my October due date. My husband and I are at the family cottage in Thousands Islands Park. It's a beautiful cottaging community filled with Victorian summer homes. We came here for our honeymoon, too, and always have a relaxing time reading, swimming in the St. Lawrence River, doing crafts, lying in the hammock and eating delicious white hots, a local type of hot dog you can't get in Canada. The cottage holds a special place in my husband's heart--I imagine and hope that it will be special for our little one, too. Of course, New York City comes a close second, and is a completely different kind of vacation. Especially if I weren't pregnant. Man, I wish I could have some whiskey right now...

Jennifer Lohmann: My favorite vacation spot is the yearly ski trip my dad takes. He bought the place just before I was born and I've gone almost every year since. There's skiing, hot tubbing, dear friends, and (of course) alcohol. I like it so much that I'm setting a (self-published) series at a ski resort.

Mary Sullivan: I like to get out into nature. It renews and calms me. My favorite holiday ever was a dogsledding course in Algonquin Park in northern Ontario in the middle of winter, which is really strange considering that the very last thing I am is an athlete. LOL

Anna Sugden: That depends on the kind of vacation! For a relaxing holiday – you can’t beat sun, sand and sea/lake, with good food & wine – so the Caribbean or Italy. When we lived in the US, we loved popping down to Charleston, SC, to recharge the batteries.  As someone with a split soul – between England and the North America - the other type of holiday is one where I get my fix of being over on the other side of the Atlantic. Going to the RWA conference every summer gives me a good excuse to visit different parts of the US, while family in Kelowna means regular visits to Canada. If I can catch a hockey game while I’m there, all the better J. This year is perfect, with conference in New York. That means I get to go back to my adopted second home of New Jersey!
What makes it special is having my lovely hubby with me – he’s the perfect holiday companion!

Sharon Hartley: For me, the ultimate vacation is Rome.  I love everything about this city, especially its many layers of history, going back millennia, sometimes in one building. There’s stunning architecture or interesting ruins everywhere you look.  Oh, and then there’s the food.  Not to mention the wine.  And the people wearing interesting clothing. I prefer to visit Italy in the spring, though, or even better, autumn.   I even have a favorite Italian word:  "scuzzi."

Monday, July 13, 2015

So, What DO You Do At RWA National?

Kris Fletcher

Next week, a couple of thousand romance writers will converge at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square for the annual Romance Writers of America national conference. In my opinion, it's one of the best parts of being a romance writer. For a few days we get to abandon the regular dance of write/feed people/write/do laundry/write/day job, and just hang out with other people who find it perfectly normal to shut themselves in a room and make up stuff. 

But what exactly happens at these conferences? The short answer: a lot.The long answer: do you have an hour or two?

Let me share some of the highlights, with the able assistance of Miss Piggy.

Workshops. The conference is, first and foremost, a place to learn. There are approximately two hundred workshops over three days covering topics on craft, business, research, a writer's life, self-publishing, and more. There are sessions on breaking in and sessions for the multi-published. If you can think of a topic that has anything to do with writing, it will probably be covered. 

Book signings. What's a writing conference without a chance to sell books? RWA features two types of signings. Conference attendees can attend publisher-sponsored signings – a highlight for many folks. But the real fun happens at the massive, almost-five-hundred-author signing that kicks off the conference. It's open to the public and all proceeds are donated to literacy. It's an amazing opportunity for authors and readers to connect while raising money for a fabulous cause. 

Meetings. It's not just writers who attend National: scores of publishing professionals will also be in attendance. Many folks will meet with their editors and/or agents over the course of the conference. Many others will take advantage of the availability of these professionals to get to know them and possibly discuss ideas, either in formal pitch sessions or while waiting in a line/seated together at a table/hanging out at the bar. 

Parties. Many groups (such as special-interest online chapters) and publishing houses will host events for their members/authors. It's hard to walk past a function room on a conference evening and not be greeted by music and/or laughter spilling out. But nothing compares to the Harlequin party. I have only attended one thus far (number two comes next week!), and let me tell you, I have never felt as appreciated, welcome, and totally spoiled as I did that night. They do it right. 

Awards. Many of those parties will include a time when awards are handed out. They could be from a writing contest or they could be recognition of milestones, such as the Harlequin authors who are honored for writing heir twenty-fifth, fiftieth, or hundredth (or more) books. The biggest award show of them all happens on Saturday night, when the Golden Heart (for unpublished authors) and Rita (published) awards are announced in a red-carpet ceremony.  

Friendships. Ask any author what she has gained from RWA and the National conference,  and one of the first answers is going to be friends. New connections are made – in a workshop, while volunteering together, after sitting together at breakfast. Long-distance friendships are nurtured by the gift of time in the same room/state/country. As people who write about relationships, connections with others are important to us. Someone once told me that for her, the most iconic part of the conference was the squeal/hug combo that is repeated over and over throughout the days.

And that's just the big pieces, folks. RWA National is a jam-packed, exhilarating, exhausting whirlwind that's guaranteed to leave a writer - or a pig -  refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to dive back into the work ahead. 

Once she's fully recovered, of course.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Getting The Job Done
Angel Smits

Putting words on the page is the writer’s job.  Creating scenes, people, places and events that at least seem real are the tasks that we work on every day.  So, if it’s something we do, that we want to do, why is it so hard?  If I could answer that, I’d probably be rich—or at least have more time to write since I wouldn’t have to work that pesky day job. 
            I’ve tried a lot of different things over the years to get the writing done, and one thing I’ve learned is that rituals help.  My brain is a creature of habit and it's not like I don't want to do it. There's just a great big world out there that gets in the way.  
            If I waited for inspiration to strike, or for just the right word or idea to pop into my head, I’d be sitting in the corner somewhere, covered in cobwebs and not a single book to my name.  Instead, I push myself with some specific “tools.” 
            For one, I use the same computer to write all my rough draft.  My laptop is a tiny, little thing that I’ve had for over five years.  In the world of computers, that’s ooold! 

            My husband bought it for me for Christmas, (probably when I was complaining about some stupid computer glitch) and I’ve been using it ever since.  It’s pink, so it calls to me, and the keyboard is a size my small hands can deal with without pain.  Also, it is clueless as to what the Internet no interruptions there.  
            I used to use it mainly when I traveled, or went other places besides home to write.  But I have been using it at home for my rough draft for awhile now.  My main PC doesn’t get much use at all.  (Social Media is a whole different blog post…)  When I try to use the PC to write, I mainly sit at it and stare at a blank screen.  My little laptop apparently holds the magic, so you’ll see me, at my computer desk, in my office with the big computer on.  (My music sounds a lot better out of the big speakers—the sound quality is my little computer is its only real fault.)  The laptop fits perfectly in the spot where my keyboard sits when everyone else uses it.  Yeah, my family makes fun of me.   
            The other ritual I’ve developed is my Thursday night writing group.  It’s a very unique group, and when I look back and realize we’ve been meeting since 1999—I panic a little about my age.  But without this group, I wouldn’t have accomplished a big chunk of what I’ve done. 
            We do what we call improv writing.   We meet for two hours.  Someone leads (we do a round robin) and we write to three different prompts.  We keep them vague so all genre’s can use them.  And we don't make anyone write to the prompt, it's just that, a prompt.  Use whatever it sparks in the brain.  We write stream of consciousness for a five minutes warm up, then for ten minutes, and then after a break, (because of course, we must have coffee) we write a bit longer, about twelve minutes.  And while that might seem like a normal writing group, we have a twist embedded in there. 
            After each writing spurt, we read aloud what we just wrote.  There’s no critique allowed.  (Unless, of course, it's so wonderful you can't hold back.)  Not even self-critique.  This is rough draft, after all.  We know each other, and we’ve established that this is a safe zone.  The freedom to play is a cornerstone of the group. 
            Even when it’s not Thursday, if I take my little pink laptop to the coffee shop where we normally meet, especially if I’m stuck, and sit down--the words flow.  My brain kicks into that gear.  I may use some of the prompts.  I reuse ones we’ve already done, or leftovers from times I’ve run the group.  I keep them handy, just in case I can’t get a kick start. 
            Many authors use the same pen and notebook.  I have done that in the past, but the bad part about that is that pens run out of ink and notebooks run out of pages.  And danged if I can ever find a duplicate of the one that worked so well.  I’ve read about sports figures who wear the same socks, or don’t shave during the playoffs.  I wonder if it’s the same type of thinking that makes them  better. 
            Yeah, I know that someday my laptop may die--insert horrified gasp here.  But I have a son and husband who have resurrected it once already.  Why else would I help pay for two computer degrees?  I made them swear they’d always be available for the future.  Yes, I saw their eye rolls.  I ignored them.  But they are committed now.
            Writing is, to me, what defines me.  It’s who I am.  Those other things?  The day job?  The business?  Those are just hobbies to support the reality of who I am.  (And fodder for the next book idea.)  I’m fairly certain that if it took standing on my head with my eyes crossed to write a story…I’d do it. 
            But I really hope it doesn’t come to that.  That would not be a pretty sight.  I'd love to hear about other people's routines or rituals they use to get things done, writing or otherwise.  I can always use a new trick.  I have a manuscript due soon, and my little pink friend is getting quite the work out.  
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